Australia’s former chief health adviser has criticised Western Australia (WA)—the state which proclaims to have the “broadest proof of vaccination requirements in the nation”—for continuing to force people to choose between getting vaccinated and losing their job.
WA has mandated the vaccine for health, mining, and police workers; staff and visitors to all hospitality, entertainment, and fitness venues; members of parliament; most visitors to hospitals; and staff and jury in courtrooms.
Former Deputy Chief Medical Officer Dr Nick Coatsworth said he believes the vaccination mandate for health was important, but that WA’s high vaccination rate meant the same restrictions in other sectors were no longer warranted.
“I was a big advocate for convincing people at the start, then I realised that having mandates in specific areas such as health and aged care were important. But then it spread into private industry, then it spread into different areas of the public service…” Coatsworth told 6PR.
“I think now that you get to that 96 percent level, really should people be losing their jobs at that point? I think from my point of view it’s a clear no and we should start to wind back those mandates,” he said.
“Keep them in health and aged care but … there’s no point in telling a 30-year-old healthy person that they have to go and get their third dose. I recommend it, but making them lose their job for it—I think that is extreme at this point in the pandemic.”
“In 2018, the hospitalisations [for influenza] was about 30 percent for under 15s, 30 percent for 15 to 64, and 40 percent for over 65,” Dr Coatsworth said.
“And it probably reflects that we all just lived with flu and we didn’t actually realise how much of an impact influenza has every year on so many Australians.”
However, the doctor, who specialises in both respiratory medicine and infectious diseases, has been criticised for his statements regarding the severity of Omicron and for proposing easing mask-wearing and vaccination mandates.
Australian Medical Association WA President Dr Mark Duncan-Smith, who has a background in plastic surgery, suggested people should ignore advice from Coatsworth as he was no longer the acting deputy health adviser.
“Dr Coatsworth is the former deputy chief health officer for the federal government for a reason,” Dr Mark Duncan-Smith said, reported the Australian Financial Review.
“I don’t know why people are still listening to him, but I don’t agree with him at all,” he said.
“Is influenza going to give us this society-wide pandemic with problems of long COVID … the problems with diabetes post-COVID, Parkinsons-like syndromes post-COVID? Well no, you’re not going to get that with influenza, so I don’t agree with his comments.”
WA has attempted to remain sheltered from the effects of the CCP virus through 2020 and 2021, adopting a zero-COVID policy and initiating snap lockdowns following small cases of community transmission.
This also involved putting up a hard border and preventing travel to and from other parts of the country, with plans to reopen initially set for February.
However, with the spread of Omicron throughout Australia’s eastern states, the WA government backflipped on its decision over concerns two doses of vaccination were ineffective against the new strain.
The state has once again planned to reopen from Mar. 3, with West Australians subject to new restrictions, including social distancing and mask-wearing indoors.
As of Feb. 23, WA recorded 643 new local cases of community transmission—the largest spike in daily cases the state has experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. In total, five patients are in hospital and zero in intensive care.